Karena Evans is only 25, but the Torontonian has already made a name for herself by working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. If you’re a fan of Drake or Coldplay, you’re probably already familiar with the prolific director and her innovative, colourful music videos for the Grammy-winners, including “Nice For What,” “God’s Plan,” or “Everyday Life.” She won Video Director of The Year at the 2019 BET Awards and the 2018 BET Hip-Hop Awards, and took home the 2018 Prism Prize Lipsett Award, making history with the latter as the first woman to win.
With all of those accomplishments, it’s easy to see why she’s so in-demand in the music industry. But to think of her solely as a music video maven would be a mistake. Evans has taken her directorial talents to TV, working on shows such as P-Valley, and the highly-anticipated Gossip Girl reboot. She’s also flexed her acting skills by starring in films such as Firecracker, and she’s currently trying her hand at podcasts as a co-host of ARTchitects, a show that explores the trajectories of other creatives in music, film and beyond.
At the heart of each of her projects lives her passion for telling stories, particularly of those who often don’t see themselves on screen: “I’m drawn to stories that challenge ethical issues of our present time,” she says. “I am in search of stories where I can offer my extremely feminist perspective, and I would say ultimately my mission has been to [represent] underrepresented communities and so on.”
We caught up with Evans who got candid about her career, work ethic, and inspirations.
On where she’s at with her career
“I feel like I’m living the dream sometimes,” she says. “I feel really blessed to be able to wake up and tell a story and get paid for it and know that in that telling of the story, my voice is valuable and it matters,” she explains. She’s currently working with different storytellers who have allowed her to grow personally and professionally as an artist, director and human being. For Evans, it’s an exciting time because she feels she has so much to say and contribute in her field.
“I’m looking forward to what that growth manifests into and how I can continue to to impact people, and make them feel seen and heard, and understand their value as I am beginning to understand mine.”
How her many influences have shaped her
Evans draws inspiration from everything around her, particularly from her family and friends, who encourage creative and personal growth, as well as others in the industry that she admires.
“I think I have incredible parents who have definitely instilled a lot of courage in me, and I would definitely say that I’m influenced by my parents when it comes to my work ethic. They bust their ass,” she says. “And my brother in particular has been huge, my older brother, Jordan Evans, he is a music producer and manager, and he has always been an incredible influence for me in that he followed his dreams and he walked the path before I did.”
In terms of other directors that she’s looked up to, the ones who have influenced her the most are those who have allowed her to feel seen and portrayed her community accurately. She has studied projects from visionaries she idolizes including Gina Prince-Bythewood, Melina Matsoukas, Spike Lee, Director X and more. “I have been striving to join the likes of those incredible artists,” she adds.
I think we have a responsibility to not listen to those voices and to step into our purpose.
Her advice to young women looking to level up their careers
The key piece of advice Evans shares with us is the same thing she also tells herself: “Believe that your voice matters and your success is first determined by your belief in yourself, so it’s crucial that we silence the inner voices and also challenge the external voices that that tell us that we don’t matter or that we cannot do the thing that we dream so greatly to do,” she says. “I think we have a responsibility to not listen to those voices and to step into our purpose.”
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At the start of her career, she says she also inadvertently suppressed her emotions. Looking back, she learned from that and became comfortable being vulnerable with herself. She says believing her emotions were a weakness was a mistake, and now sees it as a strength.
Related: 12 female leaders who give us hope.
On what she’s most proud of
When it comes to accomplishments, Evans doesn’t point to a trophy or an accolade. Her answer is unconventional: the thing she is most proud of is herself. “I would say it’s been a real journey for me to understand who I am and understand why I am and to go to that truth and to follow that truth and to speak my truth,” she says. “I would say that I’m proud of who I am and who I’m becoming and I’ve done a lot of work on myself to get here.”
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